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Friday, February 17, 2006

Coupe de France Credit Agricole gets underway this weekend, Sport+ channel to broadcast events again after A.S.O. steps in

The 2006 Coupe de France (French Cup) season, sponsored by Credit Agricole, gets underway this weekend with the Tour du Haut-Var on Saturday followed by the Classic Haribo on Sunday.

Tour du Haut-Var Official Site

Tour du Haut-Var Start List

Classic Haribo

Haribo Roadbook (.pdf)

French TV channel Sport+ will broadcast the Classic Haribo live on Sunday.  In fact, after initially saying it would not renew its broadcast contract with French cycling this season, Sport+, which also broadcast several UCI ProTour events not carried by Eurosport in 2005, only last week announced it will once again offer cycling coverage this year.  However, Sport+ apparently is no longer able to justify a financial commitment to cycling, leaving organizers of these smaller French Cup* races to dig into their already limited budgets for production costs.  Tour de France organizer A.S.O. reportedly stepped in to help foot the bill.  Some of these races won't be around much longer and others may soon come under control of A.S.O. which already is by far the most powerful entity in cycling with races such as the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Nice.

The difficult situation in French cycling no doubt explains in part why ASO continues to clash with the UCI over the ProTour and the future of cycling.  What a mess.  On the bright side for those in France, there are as yet no signs that Professional Bull Riding is nudging cycling off of television schedules.  But it is true that, even in France, cycling has to compete with more and more sports (or non-sports) and games for all-important TV coverage.  And it's not only football (soccer), tennis and auto racing.  Golf and snooker as well as American team sports such as NBA basketball and NFL football are increasingly grabbing time slots on channels like Sport+.  France Television (public), which broadcasts the Tour de France each July, even broadcast the Super Bowl live this year as the NFL seeks an ever-larger audience in Europe; in recent years, the NFL in France was only shown on cable with a more limited audience.  Fortunately, Eurosport's cycling coverage has been quite strong.  But will it last and will it find its way to cycling fans in the United States, Canada and elsewhere?  There's always audio/video streaming on the web, and we plan to stay on top of developments in that area.

*The Coupe de France is currently comprised of the following 14 events:

1.  Tour du Haut Var, February 18
2.  Classic Haribo, February 19
3.  Cholet-Pays-de-Loire, March 19
4.  Route Adelie de Vitre, March 31
5.  Grand Prix de la ville de Rennes, April 2
6.  Grand Prix de Denain - Porte du Hainaut, April 13
7.  Tro-Bro-Leon, April 16
8.  Paris-Camembert Lepetit, April 18
9.  Grand Prix de Villers-Cotterets, April 22
10.  Trophee des Grimpeurs Polymultipliee, April 30
11.  Tour de Vendee, May 25
12.  La Polynormande, July 30
13.  Grand Prix d'Isbergues, September 17
14.  Paris-Bourges, October 5

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

2006 Volta ao Algarve starts today, OLN announces 2006 Cycling Schedule

The 2006 Volta ao Algarve begins today in Portugal and runs through February 19.  Jose Azevedo leads the Discovery Channel team in his home country.

Jose Azevedo, Discovery Channel, 2005 Dauphine Libere
Jose Azevedo, 2005 Dauphine Libere
photo Copyright © 2006 Pete Geyer

Volta ao Algarve Official Website

Teams and Start List

Stage 1 "live" ticker
(Google-translated, English)
(infrequent updates)

OLN announces 2006 Cycling Schedule for U.S. market

OLN, the Outdoor Life Network, announced its 2006 pro cycling U.S. broadcast schedule yesterday.  Affectionately (or not) referred to as the Only Lance Network by some cycling fans in recent years, OLN resumes its weekly Sunday line-up of top races, starting with the Paris-Nice prologue on March 5.

Time will tell if OLN becomes known as the Only Levi Network (or Only Leipheimer Network) or Only Landis Network.  How about OLLN?

Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen and Bob Roll will be back as hosts this season.

The schedule (subject to change) is currently as follows:

March 5 & 12  - Paris-Nice (France) - 5 p.m. ET
March 19 - Milan San Remo/Tirreno-Adriatico (Italy) - 5 p.m. ET
March 26 - Criterium International (France) - 5 p.m. ET
April 9 - Paris-Roubaix (France) - 5 p.m. ET
April 23  - Liege-Bastogne-Liege/La Fleche Wallone (Belgium) - 5 p.m. ET
May 7 & 14 - Giro D’Italia (Italy) - 5 p.m. ET
May 21 & 28 - Giro D’Italia (Italy) - 4 p.m. ET
July 1 – 23 - Tour De France - TBA

Also, as they did in 2005, OLN will offer live video streaming of the 2006 Giro d'Italia Monday through Saturday.  Hooray for live streaming!  Tickers are good but video and audio streams are better.

For the full OLN 2006 cycling broadcast press release:

2006 Pro Cycling on OLNTV Press Release

Sunday, February 12, 2006

2006 Vuelta a Andalucia (Ruta Ciclista Del Sol)

The 2006 Vuelta a Andalucia got underway today in Spain.  The race runs through February 16.

This race marks the start of the 2006 season for the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team.

Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team

Vuelta Andalucia Official Website

The next race on the schedule for Discovery Channel will be the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal, February 15-19, followed by the much-anticipated first Amgen Tour of California, February 19-26.

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

2006 Tour Méditerranéen starts today

Saint Tropez
The Tour Méditerranéen goes near Saint-Tropez
but riders won't get to enjoy it.
(photo Pete Geyer)

The 33rd edition of the Tour Méditerranéen starts today and runs through Sunday, February 12.  The route includes a stage finish on Mont Faron in Toulon, France, a team time trial stage and race finish in San Remo, Italy.

Jens Voigt of Team CSC won the 2005 edition with teammates Franck Schleck and Nicki Sorensen in second and fourth, respectively.  Alas, CSC is not even entered in the event this year, perhaps a consequence of the new Tour of California later this month; Voigt and American Bobby Julich are expected to lead the CSC team there.

France's Bouygues Telecom team wasn't invited, apparently due to some in-fighting in France.  Gentlemen, start your egos.

Tour Méditerranéen Official Website

2006 Paris-Nice route revealed

The 2006 Paris-Nice route was revealed by ASO on Monday, as per our "advance peek" on Sunday (see below).  For more detail about the stages, including a Paris-Nice map and stage profiles:

2006 Paris-Nice Presentation

Sunday, February 5, 2006

2006 Paris-Nice just four weeks away, Vuelta a Mallorca starts today

Paris-Nice 2006
Nice, France  (photo Pete Geyer)

One month from today the 2006 Paris-Nice, the "Race to the Sun," gets underway with a prologue in Issy-les-Moulineaux, home of race organizer Amaury Sport Organization (A.S.O.).  The race this year includes a stage start in Avignon and the traditional final weekend in Cannes and Nice.  However, Mont Faron in Toulon will be skipped this year.

Papal Palace, Avignon, France
Pope's Palace at night, Avignon  (photo Peter Geyer)

Paris-Nice is the first major stage race of the professional road cycling season.  While the race in 2005 was the first event on the new UCI ProTour calendar, this season, due to the ongoing dispute between the Grand Tour organizers and the UCI, Paris-Nice and other events controlled by A.S.O., RCS and Unipublic will not be part of the ProTour calendar, barring some last-minute agreement.  The two sides were scheduled to meet tomorrow (Monday) to discuss their differences but L'Equipe reports that the meeting has been postponed with the two sides apparently unable to even come to an agreement on an agenda for the day.  (Maybe they couldn't agree on what brand of mineral water would be served?)

With Lance Armstrong's retirement, talks between the UCI and Grand Tour organizers regarding the future of cycling have broken down completely.  What are they waiting for, Armstrong to unretire and return to competition now that the 7-time Tour champ and Sheryl Crow have split?  (Speaking of Crow, she surely is one of the most genuine individuals among celebrities to have appeared at bike races in recent years.  Even at small events such as Paris-Camembert, there she was at the start, after the riders and media had departed, making a fuss over a little French child.  Her enthusiasm for the sport was genuine, she became a fan herself.)

Anyway, A.S.O. will officially present the Paris-Nice route this week but here is an advance peek at where the race will be going this year:

March 5:  Issy les Moulineaux (prologue)
March 6:  Villemandeur - Saint Amand Montrond
March 7:  Cerilly - Belleville
March 8:  Julienas - Saint-Etienne
March 9:  Saint-Etienne - Rasteau
March 10:  Avignon - Digne les Bains
March 11:  Digne les Bains - Cannes
March 12:  Nice-Nice

Mallorca Challenge, Spain, February 5-9

Alejandro Valverde
The Mallorca Challenge (Vuelta a Mallorca) gets underway today in Spain with five days of racing where riders can choose which stages to participate in.

Alejandro Valverde (pictured) of Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne is one of the star attractions.  Oscar Freire and Thomas Dekker (Rabobank), Paolo Bettini (Quickstep Innergetic), Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval Prodir) and Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon Lotto) are among those competing.

Volta a Mallorca Official Website (Spanish)

Official Site Google-translated (English)

Teams and riders

Friday, February 3, 2006

2006 Telekom Malaysia Tour de Langkawi

2006 TM Tour de Langkawi

The 2006 TM Le Tour de Langkawi got underway today in Malaysia.  Won by Ryan Cox of South Africa in 2005, this race has also seen overall victories by Americans Chris Horner (2000) and Tom Danielson (2003).

This year, the American team Navigators Insurance is among the teams competing:  Shawn Milne, Bernard Van Ulden, Burke Swindlehurst (all USA), Cesar Grajales (Colombia), Oleg Grishkine (Russia) and Mark Walters (Canada).

There are already some beautiful photos from Malaysia online.

2006 Telekom Malaysia Tour de Langkawi Official Site

Teams and Start List
Photo galleries

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

2006 GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise and Etoile de Bessèges

Professional cycling opens its 2006 European season today with the Grand Prix de la Marseillaise, followed tomorrow by the Etoile de Besseges which runs through February 5.

GP la Marseillaise Etoile de Besseges

Run in southern France, in Provence (including a start on Thursday in Nîmes, a site of Roman architectural wonders), these super races are organized by the Union cycliste Bésségeoise/Mr. Roland Fangille on a completely volunteer basis, in collaboration with the newspaper "La Marseillaise."  With the limited resources understandably devoted to the races themselves, there is no website for these races.  However, you can find start lists here:

2006 GP de la Marseillaise start list

2006 Etoile des Besseges start list

Note that riders such as Bobby Julich and Jens Voigt who otherwise might be racing in the south of France at this time of year are instead expected to start at the new Tour of California later in February.  Also of note:  Jonathan Vaughters brings the American team TIAA-CREF to the Marseille and Besseges races this week: Danny Pate, Craig Lewis, Tim Duggan among others will be racing.

Monday, January 30, 2006

2006 Tour of Qatar

The 2006 Tour of Qatar starts today and runs through February 3.  This race is organized by the Qatar Cycling Federation with assistance from Tour de France organizer A.S.O., notably TDF director Jean-Marie Leblanc and A.S.O. Director of Cycling and future TDF director Christian Prudhomme.  Leblanc, who has been gradually handing over his duties to Prudhomme, will fully step down after the 2006 TDF.

Tour of Qatar Official site

Start list

Monday, January 16, 2006

2006 Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under to get underway

2006 Tour Down Under jerseys

The 5-day 2006 Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under gets underway tomorrow in Adelaide, Australia, running from January 17 through January 22.  Twelve teams are competing: Liberty Seguros, Credit Agricole, AG2R-Prevoyance, Davitamon-Lotto, Milram, Liquigas, Bouygues Telecom, Chocolade Jacques, Navigators Insurance (USA), South, UniSA Australia, United Water.

Some of the riders competing include: Luis Leon Sanchez, Allan Davis, Thor Hushovd, Lazslo Bodrogi, Julian Dean, Simon Gerrans, Robbie McEwen, Cadel Evans, Luca Paolini, Ben Brooks and William Walker.  Phil Zajicek is the lone U.S. rider competing.

Tour Down Under official website

Teams, start list and team jersey graphics

Stages and live tickers

Note:  Eurosport just changed the look of their website, resulting in some links changing, including the TV schedule link.  We changed our links at left to reflect this.

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